During his first two years in office, Governor Blagojevich has focused state resources on preventing abuse and assisting victims. He has signed five pieces of legislation that call for stiffer penalties for batterers and other safeguards for victims of domestic and sexual battery.
Fourteen months ago, Illinois became the only state to prohibit employment discrimination against domestic or sexual violence after Gov. Blagojevich signed the Victim’s Economic Security and Safety Act into law. The Act enables victims to maintain the financial independence necessary to leave abusive situations, achieve safety and reduce the devastating economic consequences of domestic or sexual violence to employers and employees. Businesses reportedly forfeit nearly $100 million annually in lost wages due to sick leave, non-productivity and absenteeism related to domestic violence.
“Domestic violence is a problem of epidemic proportions in our state,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “The violence knows no boundaries. It exists in all neighborhoods, in all cities in Illinois. We must do all we can to ensure the safety of women and children from abuse.”
According to the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS), more than a quarter of a million victims, mostly women and children, sought domestic violence services. Last year, the agency provided services to 130,263 individual adults and children. Residential programs provided 298,450 days of shelter.
DHS funds 66 multi-service domestic violence programs throughout the state, offering 24-hour crisis hotlines, free counseling and advocacy, legal services, children’s services and shelter and support services to reduce and prevent violence. In addition, the agency, in partnership with the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority and the Illinois Department of Labor, will execute a statewide campaign to heighten public awareness of the critical issue of domestic and sexual violence beginning the month of October.
Faith-based, grassroots and women’s organizations are planning an array of domestic violence awareness events throughout Illinois.
The Governor’s proclamation states:
WHEREAS, every 15 seconds in the United States a woman is beaten. Of all female murder victims, 40% are killed by their husbands or partners for a total of over 300 domestic violence homicides every year in the U.S.; and
WHEREAS, in Illinois alone, over 300,000 women are victims of domestic violence each year; and
WHEREAS, in 2003, domestic violence programs in Illinois responded to over 201,249 hotline calls and provided 702,664 hours of service to victims. These same programs also conducted over 12,677 hours of prevention and outreach activities that reached a multitude of community members; and
WHEREAS, agencies within my administration have been working tirelessly to eliminate the threat of domestic violence and to educate citizens on why it is wrong and what can be done to prevent it from happening in the future; and
WHEREAS, many laws have been passed to help victims of domestic violence so that they remain safe and protected, as well as not discriminated against in any circumstance; and
WHEREAS, throughout the state, domestic violence service providers will be hosting several events in October to spread the message of awareness and prevention of this terrible crime:
THEREFORE, I, Rod Blagojevich, Governor of the State of Illinois, do hereby proclaim October 2004 as DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH in Illinois, and encourage all citizens to educate themselves about this crime and support those who work to eliminate it from our society.